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  • Writer's pictureAzalea Forrest

Chiloé - Influential Cultures

Have ya’ll ever heard of Chiloé? From its description alone, Chiloé appears to be a gorgeous archipelago that reminds me very much of Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea.

A Wizard of Earthsea alternate cover, fan cover?
Look at this gorgeous cover

I know, I know, the Earthsea series is reminiscent of Indonesia or the Philippines, but due to some of its folklore and geography, I couldn’t help but think so anyway. As a disclaimer, I am Very White, and I am getting this information from Wiki, so please correct me if any of this is incorrect. I just wanted to share some neat things I’ve read recently!

So first of all, Chiloé is both a singular island AND an entire archipelago off the coast of Chile in the Los Lagos region. Chiloé Island is the main island of this archipelago, and this place is idyllic af. I’m talking rolling hills, mosaic pastures, lush forests, and cultivated fields.

To quote Wiki: “The archipelago is known within Chile for its distinctive folklore, mythology, potatoes, cuisine and unique architecture. The culture of Chiloé is the result of mixing of Huilliche, Spanish and Chono influences in centuries of isolation without much contact with the rest of Chile or the Western World.” Honestly? They had me at potatoes. 😂

Potatoes of all colors from Chiloe
These potatoes! I want to eat them.
Iglesia de San Francisco de Castro
Iglesia de San Francisco de Castro

There is a legend that the archipelago was ruled by warlocks through a secret society called La Recta Provincia, or La Mayoria. Its origins date back to the Chilean colonial period, when navigator José de Moraleda visited Chiloé in 1786. This guy challenged the power of the machi Chilpilla to a “magic” competition, was defeated, and Chilpilla ran Moraleda’s ship aground when he tried to leave.

These warlocks were said to be able to fly, could turn into certain animals (although I am given no specifics), and could inflict harm from a distance. Their knowledge of plants and animals allowed them to brew powerful potions. Their “secret base” was a cave in which a “deformed being” (called the imbunche) guarded. Aside from the imbunche, this all in particular reminds me greatly of The Wizard of Earthsea, where Sparrowhawk lives in a great archipelago and there is a hidden island where the main mages live and train.

Imbunche, a "deformed being" in Chilote mythology
The imbunche

These are legends, but imagine what life must have been like back then! Probably scary, haha, considering the talk of these warlocks wasn't exactly pleasant (at least when the conquistadors arrived) but it really makes the imagination run wild, and to me comes across as really fantastic inspiration for fantasy work.

Chiloé has many other mythological animals and spirits, like the Pincoya, a female water spirit, or Trauco, a humanoid creature with legs but no feet. According to Chilotan mythology, the very Chiloé archipelago was formed after the fierce battle between Trentren Vilu (earth snake) and Caicai Vilu (water snake). You can read more about this particular legend here. (It's a Wiki article!)

So yeah! That’s what I’ve been reading recently. I hope ya’ll enjoyed learning about Chiloé, and I’d love to hear any other facts you might know about this archipelago that I didn’t mention here!

AS AN ADDED BONUS: While researching, I came across a Chilean-Brazilian film that released last year called Nahuel and the Magic Book! It seems VERY influenced by Chilote mythology around the warlocks, although it appears it’s actually influenced specifically by Mapuche mythology! The Mapuche are indigenous people from south-central Chile and SW Argentina (and parts of Patagonia!) Take a look at the trailer here on Vimeo!


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